Utility bills? Ugh.
If you own a home or rent and pay your own utilities, you know it’s no fun shelling out money for these bills every month. Essential? Yes. Fun? Certainly not. Here are a few small adjustments you can make throughout your home that can save you a significant amount on your energy bill all year long (whether you live in Phoenix or Minneapolis).
1. Unplug, unplug, unplug. All year round, make sure to not only turn off appliances when not in use, but to unplug them as well. Computers, printers, cell phone chargers, and even toasters continue to use power when they are plugged in, even if they’re not in use. It’s a phenomenon called “standby power” or “leaking”, and it’s a real problem that can lead to real energy costs. So why pay for something you’re not using? No one is expecting you to unplug your refrigerator, but pay extra attention to small items like curling irons. While you’re pulling a few plugs before you leave the house, do a last minute walk-through and make sure all of the lights are off too.
2. Winterize your home annually. Make it a yearly ritual to check for cracks around any windows or drafts of air that could come up from the bottom of doors. If you have them, use fireplaces or woodstoves for warmth on occasion instead of turning on the heat—especially if you’re going to be watching a movie or reading near the fireplace anyway! There’s no need to stop using the heat completely, but avoid over-use by looking for alternatives. Small space heaters work well if you’re working in one room only.
3. Program your thermostat. You can buy a programable thermonstat for as little as $50…an investment that will probably pay for itself in a month or two in reduced heating or cooling costs. Just set the temperature several degrees down (for heat) or up (for AC) when you’re usually at work or school. If you’re renting and pay your own utilities ask your landlord for a programmable thermostat (even if you have to buy it and install it). It’s worth it.
4. Service your equipment. Getting oil and gas heating equipment serviced annually is a must for efficiency and safety, but don’t forget your AC, too. If you live in warmer climates and use an air conditioning frequently, servicing your AC unit could save you big bucks, as air conditioners lose efficiency as they run.
5. Track your consumption. If you’re going to try different things to reduce your energy costs, you’ll want to measure how effective those changes are. You might note your electric meter reading date and implement changes on or around the start of a billing cycle. An experimental Google product called PowerMeter allows customers of a few electric and gas suppliers to track consumption in real time (or at least hour by hour) online, for free. Others can purchase monitors for about $130 that will enable you to use PowerMeter.
Want to learn more about saving money on your energy bill? Call your local gas and electric companies. Many of them hold free community energy-saving classes; others will at least be able to send you some free literature with more energy-saving tips. You might also want to check about special programs with some companies such as increased energy allowances for those with medical needs, or discounted energy for those below a certain income limit.
Again, whether you live in Tucson or Tacoma, whether you own or rent, small changes can lead to big energy savings. Take action!